2011 - Graciela Alarcón, MD, MPH

Dr. Graciela S. Alarcón completed her medical education at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Perú, and her Internal Medicine and Rheumatology training at Baltimore City Hospitals, and the Johns Hopkins University Medical School and Hospital, under the mentorship of Drs. Lawrence Shulman and Alex Townes.  While in Baltimore, she received a Master of Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Upon her return to Perú in 1972, she conceived and, single-handedly, created a Rheumatology Unit at Cayetano Heredia University Hospital, the first of its class in the country. This Unit was also the nucleus of the first comprehensive program in the subspecialty, where many young physicians were trained in both clinical rheumatology and clinical research. She returned to the US in 1980, as a Research Fellow in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where she was mentored by Drs. J. Claude Bennett, William J. Koopman and Gene V. Ball. One year later, she joined the UAB faculty, rose through the ranks, and became an endowed Professor of Medicine in Rheumatology in 1998.

Her initial research efforts in rheumatoid arthritis had her as a member of the research team that demonstrated that folic acid supplementation diminishes toxicity to methotrexate while not decreasing its efficacy.  For this work she, along with Drs. Michael Weinblatt, Joel Kremer and Rex Hoffmeister, received the Virginia Engalichef Award from the Arthritis Foundation, for improving the quality of life of arthritis patients.

Since 1993, Dr. Alarcón, in collaboration with Drs. John Reveille and Luis Vilá, has led frontline research on lupus among minority groups in the U.S. The LUMINA cohort study, sponsored by NIAMS, has not only placed Lupus among Hispanics on the map, but has shown that poverty, not ethnicity, is an important explanatory factor for decreased survival among lupus patients of Hispanic and African American ancestry, and that patients treated with hydroxychloroquine accrue less damage and reach better survival.  Between 2002 and 2009 and with the consistent support of Rheuminations, Inc., Dr. Alarcón has provided clinical research training, focused on Lupus, to many young Hispanic and Latin American rheumatologists. This cadre of investigators has also contributed to the LUMINA group unparalleled productivity. At the present time, and as an Emeritus member of the UAB’s faculty (since 2009), Dr. Alarcón is supervising the work of her former fellows in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico and is collaborating with GLADEL (Grupo Latinoamericano de estudio de lupus or Latin American Group for the Study of Lupus) investigators in the publication of their work. 

She has been recognized by PANLAR and the ACR as master of these institutions, distinction that she shares with a selected number of colleagues. 

Dr. Alarcón has received many other distinctions, authored or co-authored over 400 articles, is referee for specialty and subspecialty journals (Arthritis and Rheumatism, Arthritis Care and Research, Rheumatology, Journal of Rheumatology, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, Clinical Rheumatology, Arthritis Research and Therapy, Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, Annals of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, Pain, Clinical Journal of Pain, among others) and has been Editor or member of the Editorial Board for Arthritis and Rheumatism, Arthritis Care and Research, Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Medicine and ACR publications. She has worked diligently with the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), and assisted NIAMS and the LFA in the translation, into Spanish, of many patient education-oriented documents. She is advisor to the Lupus Clinical Trial Consortium (LCTC) and Co-Chair of its Data Management and Publications Committee. 

She is married to Renato D. Alarcón, MD, MPH, and is the proud mother of Patricia (architect), Sylvia (teacher) and Daniel (writer), and grandmother of Lucía and Marco Joseph.